2020 Senate Races: The Latest

By Jim Ellis

Aug. 15, 2019 — New developments are occurring in 2020 Senate races across the country and several are apparently unofficially set for the general election. Below is a recap:

ALABAMA: Two polls have been conducted since both former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and retired Auburn University football head coach Tommy Tuberville joined the Republican race. Each survey showed Tuberville with the lead. The most recent, from the Cygnal research firm (June 22-23), finds Tuberville leading Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile), 29-21 percent. Judge Moore, the 2017 special election GOP nominee, recorded only 18 percent support among the likely GOP voters. An April 14 Republican run-off is likely after the March 3 primary. The eventual party nominee faces Sen. Doug Jones (D) in the general election.

ARIZONA: While the general election already appears set between appointed Sen. Martha McSally (R) and retired astronaut Mark Kelly (D), the special election schedule is not as clear cut. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals is considering a lawsuit that challenges the length of McSally’s current appointment. The ultimate ruling could mean an earlier special election. Currently, the special cycle is to run concurrently with the regular 2020 election calendar.

COLORADO: Signs continue pointing to former Gov. John Hickenlooper leaving the Democratic presidential campaign and entering the Colorado Senate race. He looks strong in a Democratic primary – a recent Garin Hart Yang Research poll posts him to a 61-10 percent lead — but he will face a tough general election against incumbent Sen. Cory Gardner (R).

IDAHO: Sen. Jim Risch (R) has announced his re-election campaign for a third term and looks to be a lock for another win.

ILLINOIS: Minority Whip Dick Durbin now has no Democratic primary opposition as state Rep. Anne Stava-Murray (D-Downers Grove) announced several weeks ago that she was ending her Senate campaign. Sen. Durbin is the prohibitive favorite for re-election.

IOWA: The Democratic establishment is coalescing around Des Moines real estate executive Theresa Greenfield. At this point, the general election pairing looks to feature Sen. Joni Ernst (R) and Greenfield.

KANSAS: There is less conjecture that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (R) will return to Kansas and run for the open Senate seat and more thought that western Kansas Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Great Bend) will become a candidate. Mr. Marshall already has $1.4 million in his federal campaign account for the 2020 election cycle. He will face a crowded Republican primary but should be favored. Democrats feature a primary between former US Attorney Barry Grissom and ex-one-term Rep. Nancy Boyda.

MAINE: On their fourth try to find a candidate, Maine Democrats have coalesced around state House Speaker Sara Gideon to challenge Sen. Susan Collins (R). This appears to be the general election pairing, and we can expect an expensive and competitive race, though Sen. Collins is the clear favorite to win next year.

MASSACHUSETTS: The Bay State Senate seat will remain Democratic, but Sen. Ed Markey must first win re-nomination in a Sept. 15, 2020 primary election. Challenging him are author and company executive Steve Pemberton, whose book about his difficult foster family childhood was made into a movie, and attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan. Having more than one opponent increases Sen. Markey’s re-nomination chances. He is favored in the primary and would become a prohibitive favorite in the general election.

MICHIGAN: Republicans successfully recruited their top challenger prospect, manufacturing company owner and retired Army Ranger John James, who ran a strong race against Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) last year. A James-Sen. Gary Peters (D) competitive general election battle now appears set.

MINNESOTA: With 2018 special election nominee Karin Housley (R) seeking re-election to the state Senate, US Sen. Tina Smith (D) so far faces only minor opposition but the situation could change if former Rep. Jason Lewis (R) decides to challenge her. Sen. Smith’s political strength is growing.

MISSISSIPPI: Originally, 2018 special election run-off contender Mike Espy, the former US Agriculture Secretary and Mississippi congressman, filed a committee to run again but now doesn’t sound as sure that he will. Things will become clearer after the statewide races conclude this November. Currently, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) looks to be in strong position for re-election.

MONTANA: Democrats have failed to convince Gov. Steve Bullock (D) to end his presidential hopes and run for the Senate. Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins is the only elected official in the small Democratic field, and Sen. Steve Daines (R) looks very strong in his bid for a second term.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Gravis Marketing just released their August poll (Aug. 2-6; 505 New Hampshire adults) that posts Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) to a 52-39 percent lead over former state House Speaker Bill O’Brien (R) and a 51-38 percent advantage over retired Army General Don Bolduc (R). At this point, Sen. Shaheen is poised to win a third term.

NORTH CAROLINA: Sen. Thom Tillis faces a March 3 Republican primary against conservative businessman Garland Tucker, while Democrats look to have united behind former state Sen. Cal Cunningham. North Carolina Senate races are always toss-ups, and the 2020 version appears to be no exception.

TENNESSEE: After former Gov. Bill Haslam (R) and Rep. Mark Green (R) both said they would not run to succeed retiring Sen. Lamar Alexander (R), US Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty looks to be the leading Republican. Though unannounced, the Republican establishment is already falling in behind his budding candidacy. Hagerty should have little trouble dispensing with attorney and Iraq War veteran James Mackler (D) in the general election.

TEXAS: The Democratic establishment successfully recruited retired Army helicopter pilot and unsuccessful congressional candidate M.J. Hegar into the Senate race, but that hasn’t stopped state Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas), ex-Congressman Chris Bell (D-Houston), and Houston City Councilwoman Amanda Edwards from joining the Democratic primary. The winner faces Sen. John Cornyn (R) in what could be a more competitive general election than usual, but the GOP incumbent is still heavily favored to win a fourth term.

VIRGINIA: Defeated one-term US Rep. Scott Taylor (R-Virginia Beach) has come forward to run statewide, but Virginia’s increasing Democratic bent will easily send Sen. Mark Warner (D) back for a third term.

WYOMING: Sen. Mike Enzi (R) is retiring, and former at-large Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R) has announced that she will run. All are waiting to see if at-large Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wilson/Jackson) will enter the race, however. The Enzi succession battle will be decided in the Republican primary.

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